World Hepatitis Day was marked on Sunday and the once incurable disease has been
the focus of significant improvement of care, allowing many patients to fully
Under the auspices of the World Health Organization, the day is
marked on the anniversary of the birth of Prof.
Barudh Samuel Blumberg,
who discovered the Hepatitis C virus – which targets the liver – and was the
1976 Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology or Medicine.
He died in
Awareness of the virus is prevalent in most countries, as blood and
blood products are now routinely screened for Hepatitis C, but some Israelis
were infected before screening began. Injected drug use is a common method of
transmission of the virus, via shared use of a needle or syringe. Snorting
cocaine is also a risk factor, as it can lead to nosebleeds and transmission can
occur when equipment contaminated with the virus is used during any procedure
where the skin is broken. Other ways include kidney dialysis, acupuncture,
tattooing or piercing, improper dental care and hairdressers or barbers. The
virus can pass from mother to baby during pregnancy although sexual transmission
of Hepatitis C is rare.
The virus causes chronic liver inflammation that
is liable to develop into cancer or cirrhosis of the liver, with the most
successful treatment being a liver transplant. But with recent breakthroughs in
antiviral treatment for the virus, a large share of patients can fully
The WHO is urging governments to act against the five different
hepatitis viruses that can cause severe liver infections and lead to 1.4 million
deaths every year. Viral hepatitis is referred to as a “silent epidemic” because
most people do not realize that they are infected and, over decades, slowly
progress to liver disease.
Many countries are only now realizing the
magnitude of the disease burden and devising ways to address it.
result, the new report notes, 38 percent of countries observe World Hepatitis
Day (an annual event that began in 2010) with even more countries marking the
day this year.
Although the Health Ministry did not formally participate,
a number of medical institutions did, such as Sheba Medical Center in Tel
Prof. Ziv Ben-Ari, the head of the hospital’s liver center,
said numerous employees and members of the public underwent tests for the virus
with a simple and free blood test.
He said that an estimated 140,000
Israelis have a chronic hepatitis C infection, but most of them are unaware of
Effective treatment is available in the basket of health services
covered by the health funds.